1 Organized 1885 Official Organ of the Sailors Union of the Pacific Volume LXXVIII No. 2 SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA Friday, February 20, 2015 Bipartisan legislation recognizes roll of WWII U.S. merchant mariners Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Democratic Congresswoman Janice Hahn (California) and Republican Congressman John Duncan (Tennessee) would provide long-overdue recognition for American merchant mariners who served our nation during World War II. Their legislation, the Honoring Our World War II Merchant Mariners Act of 2015 (HR 563), directs the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish the Merchant Mariner Equity Compensation Fund to provide benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States Merchant Marine during WWII. When she introduced the legislation, Congresswoman Hahn reminded her colleagues that During the war, U.S. merchant mariners were responsible for transporting troops and delivering supplies for the military. Hundreds of ships and thousands of men were lost to enemy submarines and aircraft, including dangerous missions ferrying supplies to Western Europe and even Russia. It was one of the most critical roles played during Periodicals postage paid at San Francisco, CA (USPS ) the early part of the war. Unfortunately, those who served this nation so valiantly during that time, were not eligible for the G.I. Bill that helped millions of veterans go to college, secure a home and transition seamlessly into civilian life. The fact that we did not provide similar benefits to those who risked their lives for this country is simply unfathomable. Congresswoman Hahn further stated that the legislation she and Congressman Duncan were introducing would rectify this inequity by providing a one-time benefit of $25,000 to the surviving 5,000 World War II mariners. By providing this modest benefit, we will finally be giving our brave merchant mariners the recognition they rightfully deserve. As the West Coast Sailors went to press, Congresswoman Marcy Katur (D-Ohio), Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Washington) and Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Nevada) were listed as the bill s cosponsors. The measure has been referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. SUP President s Report McCain s amendment to gut the Jones Act fizzles John McCain s attempt to gut the Jones Act turned into an exercise in futility as his amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill was never brought up on the Senate floor for a vote prior to the final vote on the pipeline on January 29. The Arizona Republican s amendment would have repealed the provision of the Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act of 1920) that requires vessels trading domestically be built in the United States. Opposition to the McCain amendment came from all points on the compass: from Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai i) to Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana); from American shipyards; the U.S. Coast Guard; the Navy League of the United States; the American Labor Movement; and the grassroots campaign by all seagoing maritime Unions to oppose the amendment including members of the Sailors Union. Credit must also be given to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Senator McConnell s job as Majority Leader is to determine which amendments were worthy enough for a floor vote and obviously he didn t think McCain s was worthy. It ESU News: Page 7 should be noted that last October Senator McConnell was named a Champion of Maritime by the American Maritime Partnership, which the SUP is a member, for consistently supporting the role the domestic maritime industry and the Jones Act play in America s national, economic and homeland security. In accepting the award, Senator McConnell said America s maritime industry is critical to our nation and to Kentucky which is home to 13,260 maritime jobs and pumps more than $2.7 billion into the state s economy. Senator Murkowski, Chair of the Senate s Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a strong supporter of the Jones Act was floor manager of the Keystone bill and also thought McCain s amendment unworthy of consideration. Supporters of McCain s amendment came from fringe elements opposed to the Jones Act in Hawai i, Puerto Rico and Guam. The European Union, which has been anti-jones Act for years, cheered him on from abroad. McCain took to the Senate floor on January 29, and spent five minutes bad-mouthing the Jones Act and trying to convince fellow Senators to no avail that the statute is irrelevant and detrimental. I won t quit on this Bill introduced to extend Ex-Im Bank Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher (Tennessee) and 57 of his Republican colleagues have introduced the Reform Exports and Expand the American Economy Act (HR 597), legislation to reauthorize and reform the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The mission of the Bank is to create and sustain U.S. jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international buyers. The Bank is chartered as a government corporation by the Congress of the United States; it was last chartered for a three-year term in 2012 and extended in September 2014 through June 30, On introducing his legislation, Congressman Fincher noted that his bill would make the Export-Import Bank more accountable and transparent while requiring the bank to be more solvent and self-sufficient. It would extend the authority of the Bank to operate to September 30, 2019 and sets the Bank s limit on its aggregate loan, guarantee and insurance exposure at $130 billion. By financing the export of American goods and services from companies throughout the United States, the Export-Import Bank helped to facilitate more than $37 billion in export sales in Fiscal Year 2013, which in turn supported more than 200,000 American jobs. In addition, a percentage of the commodities exported through Ex-Im Bank financing must be shipped on U.S.-flag vessels, providing a significant source of cargo for the U.S.-flag fleet. As a result, the financing activities of the Export Import Bank not only support American jobs in a wide range of manufacturing industries throughout our country but also equally important American jobs in the domestic transportation, port and U.S.-flag shipping service industries. issue, he sputtered out to his Senate colleagues. McCain has always been a supporter of free trade as opposed to fair trade. If Mc- Cain s amendment had passed and been incorporated into the Keystone bill, the price of free trade would have been staggering: 400,000 maritime jobs, $24 billion in wages and benefits for U.S. workers and a reduction of American gross domestic product by $36 billion. Free traders like McCain believe in their version of the facts, that the Jones Act s requirements restrict competition and increase prices, and if they were to eliminate these laws, they claim, everyone would win from consumers to shippers. But what they don t say is that foreign competitors that want to flood the U.S. market with ships not only have similar requirements but often significant state subsidies to boot. So McCain s opposition to the Act is nothing more than working to destroy another American industry. This is not the first time Mc- Cain has targeted the Jones Act. In 2010 in just one attack over the years he proposed repealing the entire law, citing the Act s supposed interference with the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (see the July 2010 West Coast Sailors). Of course, that was just another red herring that was proven wrong and fortunately the effort to repeal the law went nowhere. Senator McCain is in a more powerful position now as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee than he was in His vow to take up the issue again is to be taken seriously. The SUP will remain active in the political field to thwart those who would destroy our industry and our jobs. The membership is urged to support the Sailors Political Fund so the Union can support its friends and defeat its enemies. President s Report continued on page 10
2 Page 2 WEST COAST SAILORS Friday, February 20, 2015 SUP Quarterly Finance Committee Report The anti-piracy watchdog noted that the last successful siphoning incident occurred in the Malacca Straits in April 2014, involving the Naniwa Maru No.1 off Port Klang. ReCAAP is concerned by the new modus operandi of the armed robbers and urges shipmasters and crew to exercise extra vigilance. Correction: R.J. Pfeiffer photo in January s West Coast Sailors on page 3: Delegate Chris Bujnowski, Bosun Rhonda Benoit. SUP QUARTERLY FINANCE COMMITTEE REPORT FOR THE QUARTER ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2014 The Quarterly Finance Committee, duly authorized to act by the regular meeting at Headquarters on January 12, 2015, hereby submits the following report: SUMMARY OF CASH AND INVESTMENTS General Fund...$1,623, Political Fund...$6, Strike Fund...$1,293, Total Cash and Investments 4th Qtr $2,923, GENERAL FUND Income: Dues, Initiation, Assessments...$113, Interest...12, Donations - West Coast Sailors... 21, Tanker & Joint Committee, Hiring Hall...216, Advertising & Promotion Miscellaneous Income, Reimbursements, Fines Reimbursed Administrative Expenses...20, Contributions - General Fund... 1, Total Income:...$387, Expense: Auto & Travel... $ Rent...14, Postage, Printing & Office... 13, Telephone & Telegraph... 5, West Coast Sailors Publishing Expense... 12, Contributions Accounting...4, Per Capita...14, Salaries & Payroll Taxes...204, Office Workers Pension...8, Insurance...44, Field Expense Committee & Neg., Conference & Conv...5, Investment Expense... 1, Officials Pension... 1, Miscellaneous Expense...(1,250.00) Subscriptions...2, Port of Oakland volume drops 32% in January The Port of Oakland announced on February 17, that its volume declined 32% during the month of January, compared to the same month a year ago. Imports coming into the port dropped 39% for the month on a year-over-year basis, while exports fell 26%. The Port attributed the volume decline to work slowdowns arising from a labor dispute between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association over a new contract. With a decline in productivity and a breakdown in vessel schedules at all West Coast ports, cargo volumes are far from normal, said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. The Port said importers have begun diverting containerized cargo to ports outside the U.S. West Coast including ports in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. East Coast. Pirates seize cargo from Thai tanker The Bangkok Post has reported that the Thailand-flagged tanker Lapin was boarded by eight men armed with pistols and knives on February 13, while sailing through the Malacca Straits. According to Singapore-based anti-piracy watchdog ReCAAP (Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia) Information Sharing Center, the armed robbers tied up the crew, destroyed the ship s communications equipment, and stole ship s property and the crew s belongings. In addition, they siphoned five tons of diesel and 2,000 tons of bunker oil from the Lapin and left an improvised explosive device (IED) at the bridge before leaving the scene. Subsequently, the 15 crewmembers managed to free themselves and sailed towards Thailand and anchored off Ko Tarutao, Thailand, and activated the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS). The Royal Thai Navy soon responded to the distress call and dispatched an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team to disarm the IED, only to find out that it was an electric circuit with no explosive or detonator attached. ReCAAP remarked that this was the first case that armed robbers reportedly used a dummy IED to threaten the crew. Moreover, the ploy serves to distract the authorities, delay their responses, and deter the crew from doing much while the perpetrators escaped. Final Departures Carl Reinhold, Book Born in California in Joined SUP in Died January 9, (Pensioner) Stephen Zombro, Book 278. Born in Massachusetts in Joined SUP in Died January 26, (Pensioner) Advertising and Promotions... 5, Legal Total Expense:...$339, BUILDING CORPORATION Income: Rents...$154, Bldg. Util. & Service Reim... 1, Total Income:...$155, Expense: Building Services & Utilities...$28, Repairs & Maintenance...21, Insurance... 17, Salaries & Payroll Taxes... 17, Pension Auto Office... 1, Accounting...2, General Tax...14, Building Improvements - Legal... 1, Total Expense:... $104, POLITICAL FUND Income: Contributions...$3, Total Income... $3, Expense: Contributions...$ Total Expense:...$ Net Income 4th Qtr...$101, Net Income YTD:...$516, /s/ Allen Gonzalez /s/ David Larsen /s/ Gabriel Sipin SUP Meetings These are the dates for the regularly scheduled SUP meetings in 2015: Hdqs. Branch March 9 16 April May June 8 15 July August September October Tues November 9 16 December /s/ Arthur Thanash /s/ Tom Wilson ACTION BY THE MEMBERSHIP February 9, M/S/C That we concur in the report of the SUP Quarterly Finance Committee and, as per past practice, publish in the West Coast Sailors. Carried unanimously. A way to reduce diabetes risks Lowering blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk for many of the complications of Type 2 diabetes, a review of data from 40 trials involving more than 100,000 people with diabetes has found. Diabetics are more vulnerable to the effects of hypertension than otherwise healthy people. Recent guidelines suggest that a systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 140 millimeters of mercury is a good goal for people with diabetes, but the new study found that 130 of even lower may be better. The analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a 10-point lowering from 140 was associated with a 13% reduction in the risk for death. They found the risk of coronary heart disease declined by 12%, and the risk of stroke by 26%. The 10-point lowering was also associated with a 13% reduction in retinopathy (a cause of blindness in people with diabetes) and a 17% reduction in albuminuria, an indication of kidney problems. An author of the study, Dr. Kazem Rahimi, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Oxford, said that whether it was beneficial to aim for a level even lower than 130 was unknown. But, he said, If you are diabetic with a reading of 135 and not taking medication for high blood pressure, you are likely to benefit from taking it. Published monthly by the Sailors Union of the Pacific (an affiliate of the Seafarers International Union of North America, AFL-CIO), Headquarters, 450 Harrison St., San Francisco, CA Phone: FAX: Dispatcher: Website: Periodicals postage paid at San Francisco. (USPS ). Printed by Commerce Printing Co., a Union shop. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to West Coast Sailors, 450 Harrison St., San Francisco, CA Gunnar Lundeberg, President/Secretary-Treasurer Teresa Anibale, Editor BRANCH OFFICES Seattle, WA nd Ave. W. (206) FAX: (206) Wilmington, CA N. Marine Ave. (310) FAX: (310) Honolulu, HI Alakea St., Rm. 101 (808) FAX: (808) WELFARE OFFICE (415) PENSION PLAN OFFICE (415)
3 Friday, February 20, 2015 WEST COAST SAILORS Page 3 NOL benefits from larger, more efficient ships in APL fleet in 2014 By Chris Dupin, American Shipper NOL Group, the parent company of the liner company APL and APL Logistics, reported a loss for its fourth quarter and fiscal year, but said larger ships added to its fleet in the last three years have helped it lower costs. The company said congestion at West Coast U.S. ports increased expenses by $15 million in the most recent quarter, about half of what congestion cost the company in the third quarter of last year. Going forward, the company said more port congestion, is a potential risk factor. Singapore-based NOL said it had a $260 million loss for the full year in 2014, compared to a loss of $76 million in 2013, when it benefited from a $200 million gain from the sale of its headquarters building. The company s revenue of $8.6 billion in 2014 was 2% lower than in (NOL reports results on a fiscal year basis that is almost, but not quite identical to the calendar year. For 2014, it began not on January 1, but December 28, 2013.) The company had a core earnings before interest and taxes loss of $76 million in 2014 compared with a core EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) loss of $167 million in In the fourth quarter of 2014, NOL had a net loss of $85 million compared with a fourth quarter 2013 net loss of $137 million. Revenues in the fourth quarter 2014 were $2.23 billion, 5% lower than the fourth quarter of The quarterly EBIT loss was much smaller: $17 million in the fourth quarter 2014, compared with $82 million in the fourth quarter of The company s liner arm, APL, had a core EBIT loss of $143 million for the full year in 2014 compared with $234 million in Revenue in 2014 was $7.04 billion, down 4% from the prior year. In the fourth quarter of 2014 APL s core EBIT loss was $37 million compared with a core EBIT loss of $104 million in the 2013 fourth quarter. Revenue in the fourth quarter was $1.79 billion, down 7%. The company noted that its fleet has changed dramatically in the past three years. At the end of 2011, it had 639,000 TEUs on 147 ships with average ship size of 4,300 TEUs. It has shrunk the size of its fleet to 574,000 TEUs, and more than half that capacity is on new ships. In the past three years, it added 303,000 TEUs of capacity on 29 ships while disposing of or returning to charterers 64 ships. The new vessels, which have an average size of 10,500 TEUs, make up 53% of APL s fleet today. (This does not include the five 14,000-TEU ships it has chartered out to fellow G6 Alliance member carrier MOL). The other 47% of its capacity, 271,000 TEUs, is on 67 ships with an average capacity of 4,000 TEUs. Chung said looking forward the company has the opportunity to return 19 ships to charters in The company has no new ships on order, and Chung said it has not made a decision about what size ships it might order in the future. Chung noted the company recorded a savings of $430 million in 2014, with 77% due to bunker and network-related savings in addition to a 6% drop in bunker costs, and 21 % due to terminal, land operations and equipment cost. With the economies of scale of larger and more efficient ships, the company s bunker consumption per FEU has fallen from 1.04 metric tons per FEU in 2011 to 0.78 metric tons per FEU last year. Chung said terminal handling charges, not bunker fuel is the highest cost item for NOL. Bunker prices have dropped dramatically since last summer. Chung said the company expects to see some near-term benefits from the drop in fuel prices, but said because overcapacity in the liner industry will persist what is uncertain is to what extent a lower bunker price will lead to a much more intense competition on freight rates. APL moved 2,827,000 FEU in FY2014, 4% fewer than the prior year; in the fourth quarter 2014 it moved 734,000 FEU 8% fewer than in the fourth quarter of 2103, said Chung. Kenneth Glenn, the president of APL, said the volume reduction in the fourth quarter resulted from capacity reductions on unprofitable services in the TransAtlantic, TransPacific and certain intra-asia issues. He also noted that because of West Coast congestion the company is unable to get weekly turns on vessels, resulting in a loss of sailings. APL said it is working ships hard with utilization increasing to 94% for the full year in 2014 compared with 91% in The liner expects industry overcapacity to persist in Glenn said despite the drop in bunker prices, APL has no intention to increase the speed of vessels. I don t think the number could go low enough, he said. Chung added that the primary impact of speeding up release even more capacity that is locked up by slow steaming and exacerbate the oversupply of capacity in the industry. That would not be helpful on the revenue side. We think slow steaming will be with us for quite some time even at reduced bunker rates. However, Glenn said APL could potentially use the lower cost to help ships recover time where a vessel is off schedule and we need to do a speed up on a given leg to return it to schedule. He did not mention a specific trade where that would come into play, but industry-wide, many dozens of ships are waiting for berths or off schedule because of the congestion issues at U.S. West Coast ports. APL Logistics had core EBIT for the full year in 2014 of $67 million, the same as the prior year, while revenue grew 5% to $1.66 billion. In the fourth quarter of 2014, core EBIT was $20 million, down 9% even though revenue grew 5% to $458 million. Chung had no comment on a possible sale of APL Logistics and said NOL continues to invest in the logistics side to grow the business. For example, on February 12, it reported it had incorporated a new company in Myanmar to grow its logistics business, and entered into a joint venture with CFR Rinkens to create a company that will transport vehicles within the U.S., Mexico and Canada. See article on APL Logistics on page 9. Pictured on the left is the SLNC PAX assisting the USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak. Between the two ships is a Japanese barge. Last month the USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak ran aground departing Okinawa. SLNC PAX, a tanker operated by SUP-contracted Patriot Contract Services, was in the vicinity and took on the stricken vessel bunker fuel, preventing a possible environmental disaster. In an from the company, SUP members in the PAX Frank Duffin, Juancho Gutierrez and Diomedes Vigo were commended for doing an outstanding job under difficult circumstances. Leaked UK paper: No realistic chance of rolling back Jones Act in TransAtlantic trade pact A confidential briefing paper prepared by the United Kingdom government this month concedes that any effort to roll back the Jones Act through the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is likely to be futile and would yield uncertain commercial gains for the European Union s maritime transport sector even if successful. The U.S. has been fully aware of the views of the UK and other countries towards the Jones Act for many years. However, there is no realistic chance of a change in U.S. policy on this matter, the UK government says in a four-page briefing note circulated to UK members of the European Parliament and obtained by Inside U.S. Trade. The U.S. is committed to a strong merchant marine for national defense and economic security. In the current security conscious climate, that position can only remain entrenched, adds the memo, which is dated February 5. Importantly, neither UK nor other international shipping companies see any advantage in putting pressure on the U.S. over the Jones Act at the present time. It is not clear from the paper which branch of the UK government drafted the briefing note, although it makes reference to DfT the Department for Transport. Trade policy is handled by the Minister of State of Trade and Investment, Lord Ian Livingston. A spokesperson for his office was not immediately able to comment. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in 2013 written testimony to the House Ways & Means Committee pledged to preserve the Jones Act restrictions in future trade agreements, putting a damper on EU hopes in TTIP. The European Commission, meanwhile, has emphasized the possible commercial opportunities that could be brought about if the U.S. were to agree in TTIP to roll back restrictions established by the Jones Act, a main provision of which restricts the transport of materials between two U.S. ports to American-flagged vessels. But the briefing note calls into question the potential gains of that provision. It is very difficult to estimate how much of that market would be of interest to or successfully competed for by UK, EU or other non-u.s. shipping if the relevant provisions of the Jones Act were to be repealed, it says. EU dredging firms have also said that they would stand to gain if Jones Act restrictions were repealed, although they have also sought to go after other U.S. measures that restrict dredging specifically. The note overall assesses the state-of-play regarding transport issues in the TTIP negotiations and identifies UK priorities in this sector. It also makes clear that the UK wants to see an ambitious TTIP deal agreed in 2015 a timeline that proponents and critics alike see as increasingly unlikely. Bernd Lange, the Chairman of the European Parliament s International Trade Committee, said the new target for concluding TTIP is Spring The EU s objective under the TTIP negotiations would be to do away with these restrictions on a reciprocal basis, allowing majority foreign ownership and control of U.S. and EU airlines, the briefing note says. Some people say that they are for the so-called Right-to- Work law, but they also believe in Unions. This is absurd! It s like saying you are for motherhood but against children. President Harry S. Truman 1947
4 Page 4 WEST COAST SAILORS Friday, February 20, 2015 SUP Honor Roll Voluntary contributions from the membership to the following funds: Organization/ General Fund Dave Eriksen Marvin Glasgow Cezar Paeste Political Fund Wilson Abanto Dennis Belmonte Marc Calairo... $ Dave Connolly Rico Ecalnir Dave Eriksen Joseph Gallo, Jr Rolando Gumanas Jill Holleman Isnin Idris Noel Itsumaru Vern Johansen in memory of Henry Johansen Robert Lee Jones James Kolm Gunnar Lundeberg Raymond Pinochi Roy Tufono James White Peter Winter West Coast Sailors Marc Calairo Dave Eriksen Joseph Gallo, Jr Marvin Glasgow Scott Oliphant Jack Post Dues-Paying Pensioners Gordon Abbott Book #3785 William Berger Book #4642 Robert Copeland Book #4763 Donald Cushing Book #4777 Romaine Dudley Book #2593 Diane Ferrari Book #2251 Kaj E. Kristensen Book #3120 Hannu Kurppa Book #3162 Duane Nash Book #2437 John Perez Book #3810 Alex Romo Book #3193 Francisco Salvatierra Book #7498 James Savage Book #7488 Ralph Senter Book #7323 David Shands Book #7483 Arthur Thanash Book #3249 Horizon reaches settlement regarding proposed sale to Matson Horizon Lines has announced that it has reached an agreement in principle providing for the settlement and dismissal, with prejudice, of the consolidated putative class action complaint pending in the Delaware Court of Chancery in connection with Horizon s proposed merger (sale) with Matson Navigation, a subsidiary of Matson, Inc. Pursuant to the settlement with plaintiffs, which is subject to approval by the court, Horizon has agreed to make certain supplemental disclosures to its stockholders through a supplement to the company s proxy statement. Further, Horizon agreed to amend the Agreement and Plan of Merger, dated November 11, 2014, by and among Horizon, Matson, and Hogan Acquisition Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Matson, to reduce the termination fee that may be payable by Horizon to Matson under certain circumstances from $17,149,600 to $9,500,000. According to a statement by Horizon, the settlement will not affect the merger consideration to be paid to Horizon s stockholders in connection with the merger or the timing of the special meeting of Horizon s stockholders scheduled for February 25, 2015, to consider and to vote upon a proposal to adopt the merger agreement. Horizon and its board of directors said that the claims in the actions are entirely without merit, but that the company was entering into the settlement because it will eliminate the risks, costs, and other burdens of future litigation. In the event the Court does not approve the settlement, Horizon and its board of directors said that they will continue to contest the claims. A look astern years ago: Matson awards a $125 million contract to National Steel and Shipbuilding Company to construct a new containership the R.J. Pfeiffer. 50 years ago: The strike of the ILA longshoremen on the East and Gulf Coasts will go into its 26th day this Friday, February 5, and settlement is being held up due to some local problems at a few of the ports. SUP-contracted ships affected by the strike at present are the F.E. Weyerhaeuser at Marcus Hook, the C.R. Musser at Philadelphia, the John Weyerhaeuser at Boston, the President Grant at Norfolk, and the President Jackson and President Buchanan at New York. The President McKinley is due in New York on February 5, and has been cleared as she is going to the Bayonne Navy Base. Most of these ships are at anchor and all of the crews have been kept aboard so far as the strike is expected to end shortly. Asteroids not comets source of Earth s water Data obtained by Europe s Rosetta spacecraft support the view that most of Earth s water was brought here by asteroids by undermining a theory that indicated the oceans were seeded by comets. Ever since Rosetta entered into close orbit around a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August, it has been analyzing the chemical signature, or makeup, of the comet s gases. One goal was to check whether the comet s water was the same as that found on our planet. If it was, it would support the view that icy comets crashed into the early Earth and brought water for the first time. But the latest study shows that the chemical signature of water on comet 67P is unlike that on Earth. As 67P is believed to be typical of many comets that originate in the far reaches of the solar system, the finding undercuts the view that comets were the main source of water for Earth s oceans. Some water is made from regular hydrogen atoms, which, in turn, are made from one proton and one electron. But in other cases, the hydrogen is replaced by its heavier isotope called deuterium, which also includes a neutron. Rosetta s instruments found that 67P s water had a deuterium-hydrogen ratio that is three times that of Earth s water. It s not the same as terrestrial water, it s much heavier, said Kathrin Aitwegg, physicist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and lead author of the study, published last month in the journal Science. The source of Earth s water has long been a puzzle. About 4.6 billion years ago, the planet was extremely hot and likely harbored little or no water. So where did our planet s vast amount of water come from? The most credible sources are ice-rich comets and asteroids. Scientists theorize that between 4.1 and 3.8 billion years ago a vast number of comets and asteroids peppered Earth and other planets, an event dubbed the late heavy bombardment. They argue that Earth was seeded with water during this period. There is a strong case for asteroids being the main contributor. Scientists had shown that the chemical signature of water found in meteorites (which are bits of asteroids) was the same as the signature of Earth s water. Asteroids also were formed between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. Comets, by contrast, exist much further out in the solar system. Their orbital patterns are extended and far more elongated than the orbits of asteroids, which makes them only occasional visitors to the inner reaches of the solar system. Some studies, such as one published in 1999 on the comet Hale-Bopp, had shown that the water on comets was chemically unlike the water on Earth. But in, 2011, astronomers studying the water on the comet 103P/Hartley 2 found that it contained water that had the same isotopic composition as Earth s. The surprise finding significantly undermined the case for asteroids and bolstered the belief that ice-rich comets had brought water to earth. The latest Rosetta results swing the pendulum back to asteroids and quite firmly. It rules out comets as the dominant source of earth s water, said Geoff Blake, a cosmo chemist at the California Institute of Technology, who wasn t involved in the Science study. Historic Thai canal plan resurfaces The idea of building a major shipping canal across the south of Thailand dates back to the 1600s. The most recent plan, discussed about a decade ago, involves financing from China, and it is this plan that has recently resurfaced in Thai local media. Pakdee Tanapura, a member of the National Committee for the study of the canal, called the Kra Canal, has outlined the plan to the Thai daily, The Nation. He says that the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing has been working with the committee on a pre-feasibility study. The canal would link the South China Sea and the Andaman Sea and could reduce the congestion anticipated to occur in the Malacca Strait over the next 10 years, says Tanapura. Construction of a canal would provide the shortest shipping route between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The $20 billion project would involve the construction of an 85-foot deep canal of less than 62 miles in length that would cut an estimated 48 hours off the current voyage time through the Malacca Strait. The canal and associated special economic zone would boost Thailand s economy and facilitate development of a shipbuilding industry. However, although the concept of the canal has been proposed a number of times, past Thai governments have been reluctant to divide the country in that way. The earlier plan involving China has also seen little progress due to environmental concerns and internal unrest in Thailand.